TATRA AREA RESEARCH GROUP
© TARG All rights reserved.
Newsletter for June 2005
Hello to all fellow TARG members -- new and old! Most of the hacker
problems discussed here last month have been overcome and the www.mytarg.net website was finally accessed for some needed updates. I've included an evocative photo dating from 1939 on our homepage showing a Hungarian landowner overseeing his Slovak workers. Even though serfdom was supposedly abolished in the region in 1848, it did in fact persist around the Tatras well into the 20th century, most notably under the Salamons who owned Niedzica Castle until 1945. In any event, the photo puts another face on the reasons our ancestors fled to North America.
With the last installment of the Podhale book translation in the May
issue, I've searched for something "new" to include here. I settled on a
little out-of-print book by V.A. Firsoff on the Tatras written in 1942.
(This was written as WWII was well under way, and the book, especially the
preface, certainly denotes that in its tone.) We'll start with our first
excerpt from his book in this issue. I think you will enjoy it. The book is
long out of print, but available from used book sources including Alibris
and Amazon. The B&W photos of the period within its pages are alone worth
buying a copy.
-- Paul K. Bingham
1. TARG's website is: http://mytarg.net (or also www.mytarg.net).
2. www.ancestry.com (commercial genealogy site)
3. Find used books for sale at: www.alibris.com or www.amazon.com.
4. Webhosting companies with good ratings: www.doteasy.com and
---Hi Paul, Regarding your website challenges, checkout www.doteasy.com as a new hosting site. My son & brother have websites there. - Michael Leonard
***Hi, Mike. Dot Easy actually made my short list, but I had already signed
up with a host called Westhost before getting your e-mail. I will be moving
everything over when I can get to it. If Westhost don't work out, I'll
certainly consider the Dot Easy group. Thanks! - Paul
---Dear Paul, Ancestry.com has a new section about names in their Learning
Center. Information such as name meaning, distribution, occupations, life
expectancy, places of origin, ports of departure, and more. When I looked up
some of my father's
Slovak side of the family, two of the four grandparent's names say that they
are Ashkenazy Jewish names: Kozel and Murin. As far as I knew, my
grandparents were Catholic. Could they have been Jewish before they came to
Namestovo, and how would I find out? I have logged onto some Jewish
websites, and found others with the Kozel name on JewishGen, but not Murin.
Do you have any suggestion? I intend on going to see the birth records at
the Family History Center this summer and will try to see how far back I can
go, maybe there will be some indication. Thanks for any suggestions. - Karen
***Hi Karen, I have access to Ancestry.com and will have to check out the
Learning Center's name feature. Thanks for sharing it. As for your possible
Jewish roots, yes, it is possible. Especially after WWII, there were Jewish
families who returned to their villages and converted to Catholicism.
Sometimes notations to that effect can be found in the parish records. But
your best bet is probably to check the Jewish records from Orava microfilmed
by the LDS to see if your ancestors turn up. It seems to me the Synagogue
records that included Namestovo would be in the Tvrdosin records that cover
a period in the region from 1851-1923. Check the February 2002 and October
2004 back issues of the TARG Newsletter. We discussed them there. - Paul
---Hi Paul, I'm currently researching my ancestry and am absolutely stuck on
finding the town my great grandfather came from. It's listed as Erdes or
Erdos, Austria which I believe is in present day Spis county, Slovakia.
Surnames in my family include: Sejut, Gondek and Jurgovsky. Finding pre WWI
town names is practically impossible. Any help would be much appreciated.
***Hi Michele, Looking up your surnames in the growing TARG database, there was only one village that had all of your surnames: Lesnica, Slovakia. But
just to be sure, I went to Milan Majtan's wonderful reference "Nazvy Obci
Slovenskej Republiky" which lists all the names that Slovak villages have
been known as through the centuries. Here is what I found:
-- 1773 Lesnicza, Lesnitz
-- 1786 Lesznicza
-- 1808 Lesnicz, Leschnitz, Lessnica
-- 1863 Leschnic
-- 1873 Lesnic
-- 1892 Lessnic
-- 1907 Erdos
-- 1920 Lesnica
Between 1907 and 1920 the Hungarians had begun what was known a
'Magyarization" or forcing the Slovaks to only use the Hungarian language in
everything. This correlates well to the use of "Erdos" for a few years as
the name for Lesnica. I've been to the village and it is very small. The
village has only 480 inhabitants and its Roman Catholic church of St.
Michael the Archangel was built in the mid-1600s. It is very near beautiful
Pieniny National Park and the Dunajec river. It is definitely a Goral
village! See our website for more details. (Don't get it confused with a
second TARG village named Lesnica that is over the border in Poland.) Your
village's records may be available on microfilm through the LDS Family
History Library system. - Paul
---Hi Paul, I just want to sincerely thank you for this information. It is
an amazing feeling to have finally discovered the home of my ancestors.
Thank you for taking the time to help me. Michele Shannon (formerly Sayut)
P.S. - Your website is beautiful.
***You are very welcome and thank you. - Paul
---Hi Paul, Love getting your newsletters. Also thanks very much for the
Bialka Tatrzanska, Poland church records on CD. The price was right for me.
This was the village of my Grandmother Anna Hornik. Sincerely, Fred Hyzny
***Hi Fred, Thank you and glad the records on CD have been of help! - Paul
---Hi Paul, Your work is much appreciated by this subscriber (and I'm sure
many others). Thanks for keeping us all informed so diligently. Cordially, Stephanie Sweas
***Hi Stephanie, You are very kind. Thank you. - Paul
---Hi Paul, I am Mike Klepek and my wife and her sister and brother-in-law
will be traveling this summer to parts of Slovakia and Poland with Helene
Cincebeaux's tour group. We received your reply to Helene with our trying to
find information on my wife's grandfather's birth place village. Thanks for
the information and it sounds like there may be people in Dolny Stepanov
with her Gnizak surname. Also you mentioned an island (Slanica) on Lake
Orava which might have some type of museum with names of the towns that were flooded for the creation of the dam. Do you know if any prior reservations
are needed for this? A friend has sent us an old 1910 map of Orva county
which shows the town of Lavko (or Lavkovo) lost to the lake. I also will try
to visit the LDS Family history library. We are taking a side trip on August
13th to Tvordosin. We are taking our first trip to Slovakia and would like
to accomplish as much as possible with regards to locating any existing
relatives. Thanks. - Mike Klepek
***Hi Mike, Helene does a pretty good job of connecting people with living
relatives. As far as Lavkovo, though, the villagers were relocated all over
Slovakia by the Communists when the dam was built. Finding them will be more
problematic. On the Island of Slanica is the old church -- now a folk art
museum -- which is open daily, closing as the last boat leaves for the
lake's shore at the end of the day. Also on the small island is a monument
to Anton Bernolak, the codifier of the modern Slovak language who was born
in the village of Slanica (lost to the lake). Near his statue is a small
building which is the memorial to the five towns lost, including Lavkovo. In
it are photos from all of the 5 villages and a 3-D model of the region
before the lake flooded the basin. It shows where the villages were and
their interconnections with other nearby places. The memorial is always
open, I believe, and there is no charge to enter, nor restrictions against taking
photos. The church (art museum) does charge to get in and does not allow
photos. They also sell books in the museum, which is where I got my copy of
the little book having descriptions and most of the photos in the memorial
to the 5 lost villages. Getting to all of this is really mostly up to
catching one of the two boat that stop there. They also rent paddle boats,
but it is a little ways out. - Paul P.S: Wish I could go, too! Maybe next year!
---Hi Paul, I was reading through the newsletter and saw: "The only thing I
am lacking is one key piece of info....where did my great grandfather John
(Johannes) Pisarcik land when he came to the US?" I'm sure that you have
seen the "Petition For Naturalization" form that was used by our ancestors.
There is a requirement to have 2 "affidavits of witnesses" on the form. As
it turns out, one of the witnesses for my great grandfather was a John B.
Pisarcik. My grandfather came through Baltimore, so I would definitely try
that port. Just thought. - Daniel Zelonka
***Hi Dan, thanks for sharing that. I'll pass it along. - Paul
---Hello Paul: I am responding to Robert Pisarcik's comment in the May
newsletter. My brother, Jakub Sleboda and other relatives live next door or
very near to the Pisarcik's in Velka Frankova. My father, Josef, and
Nicholas Pisarcik were good friends both in Slovakia and US. My father told me I was named after a Barbara Pisarcik. Perhaps John Pisarcik came into the US via Canada as my father did. My knowledge of the V. Frankova Pisarciks is
little, but if Robert would like to contact me, he can. I would like to know
who Barbara Pisarcik was. Also, I have a picture from a wedding of a
Pisarcik (I think) but can't identify people in it except for my Dad. I
enjoy receiving the e-newsletter. Sincerely, Barbara Sleboda
***Hi Barbara, thank you. I will pass this along. - Paul
---Hi Paul, I found a 1902 relative's marriage in Windber, PA for
Rosalia Jakubiak and John Vojtasek. I am wondering about the "Vojtanek"
mentioned in the May Newsletter. Is Vojtasek a variation of Vojtanek? John
and Rosalie were from Krosnica near Nowy Targ and so were their parents.
Please, any help about this name? Gratefully, Ginny
***Hi Ginny, No, the surnames Vojtasek and Vojtanek are not related. The
spelling in Poland for yours would most certainly be Wojtaszek. I find two
of those listed in the phonebook currently for Krosnica. - Paul
TATRA MOUNTAINS BOOK - PART 1__________
Press coverage: "Little known to Britons, the Tatra Mountains constitute
a pearl of natural grandeur on the borders of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Their delights have never before been brought to English notice in picture
or print. For that desideratum alone the present volume is a welcome
addition to the literature of travel. In a series of descriptions and
impressions the author discloses all of the riches of the mountains, lakes
and valleys, the history, traditions, and customs of the region and its rich
flora and fauna. Having spent much of his life in the district, Firsoff
knows every nook and cranny and seems rarely to have left his camera at
home. The varied and exquisite pictures enhance the attraction of what he
conveys delightfully enough in words and the whole is enlivened by a fine
sense of humour. This small book will appeal to all those who love mountains
in general, and the Carpathians in particular. It touches lightly though
skillfully on many aspects of these mountains and the life of their
inhabitants. There is much information here which is otherwise inaccessible
to English readers and the account of the Tatras covers a very wide scope. A
very readable and well illustrated book about one of the loveliest parts of Europe."
Preface: "The Tatra Mountains, at least for natural beauty, are the
pearl of Poland and Czechoslovakia, whose fate is so closely connected with
the present world conflict. Both these countries played a prominent part in
the events that led to the outbreak of the war, and both are yet destined to
play perhaps as prominent a part at its close.
"The Tatra is little known to the British public. There is, as far as I
know, no book on the Tatra in the English language, and this alone should be
sufficient excuse for the publication of the present work. I have lived in
the Tatra many years and I love the place. To be sure, there are there no
raw materials to produce munitions of war; but precisely because of this, it
appears to me to form a fit subject for a book.
"I think Ibsen in 'Peer Gynt' says that 'some need brandy, others need
lies, and for the same reason we need fairy tales'. Dickens puts the same
idea in a different form when he says that 'each man must have his romance'.
Even Dr. Ley has recognized this principle in calling his grim organization
'Kraft durch Freude' (Power though Joy). Relaxation and escape from the
reality of war are a necessity, and there can hardly be a better relaxation
than travel in an unknown country. Mountains have been found to possess
particular power of setting our minds free from daily troubles. So while
real travel and mountaineering remain impracticable, let us enjoy them at least
vicariously through description and photograph.
"I should like to mention with gratitude the help and advice I have
received Dr. A. H. Kysucky in matters concerned with the Slovaks, and
Chapters X and XI of the book in particular, and to thank Dr. Adam
Harasowski who has kindly supplied the music for two of the Tatra songs and
the Polish and Czechoslovak Ministries of Information who have kindly
provided some of the photographs."
-- V.A. Firsoff February 7, 1942
Chapter 1 'The Tatra': "'Tatra' -- or more correctly 'Tatry' --
originally meant 'waste'. High mountains, with a hard climate, a stony,
barren soil, a few pastures, lost among a sea of forest, roadless, infested
with wolves and bears, were little more to a peasant than a waste, and that
is what he called them. The meaning of the word has since been lost, though
some of the old villagers use it to this day as a general noun. But the name
has remained, and the highest mountains of Poland and Czechoslovakia are
known as the Tatra or Tatry, the latter being the plural for Tatra. How this
etymology is supposed to account for the names of the two smaller mountain
groups in Slovakia -- the Matra and the Fatra -- in close vicinity is a
different question; yet there certainly must be a reason for this.
"On the old maps the region was represented by a vague and arbitrary
maze of peaks and streams, with a few bears and spruce trees to suggest
dense forest and labeled as 'Montes Tartrae'. This name has given rise to
the association of the Tatra with the Tartars; the 'Tartra' being conceived
of as a sort of Tartar Mountains. The association, however, is purely
accidental since at no known time have the Tartars ever been there. When in
the thirteenth century they actually invaded Poland, took and burnt Cracow,
north of the Tatra, and reached as far as Silesia and Bohemia in the west,
the sons of eastern steppes shrank from contact with the mountains where
there would be no scope for their horses, and skirted the Tatra by nearly a
"Geographically the Tatra forms part of the vast mountain system of the
Carpathians, extending all the way from Upper Silesia to the Iron Gate of
the Danube, which divides them from the Balkan Mountains. But the
Carpathians, though often extremely wild, are hardly Alpine in character.
They seldom throw up naked rocks of any impressive bulk or gradient, but
undulate in round domes of grass and weathered stone; their form is rather
of Byzantine than of Gothic style.
"The Tatra is different. From Cracow the railway runs south through
pleasant hilly country, but there is nothing in the landscape here to
suggest the wild glory of the Tatra. Dark woods and cornfields follow each
other, and almost imperceptibly a stern Scandinavian tone creeps into the
scene. Clear mountain streams tinkle over rocky beds. Wooden cottages stand
by scanty patches of tilled ground. Spruce forests crowd up to the railroad
track. The train slows down, climbs higher and higher; it struggles up to
the main ridge of the Gorce, puffing, out of breath. There it reaches the
highest point and starts running stealthily -- gradually increasing its
speed, until it is racing toward Nowy Targ. Suddenly the gates of the forest
are thrown wide open -- flat, ahead lies the sunlit plain of Podhale, the
Rocky Highlands. And far above the southern horizon, high, high in the sky
among the wandering clouds, rise the blue shadows of jagged rocks with white
streaks of snow -- it is the Tatra."
(We will continue with Chapter 1 in next month's issue.)
To contact the TARG Editor, the new e-mail address is: TatraAreaResearchGroup-AT-gmail-DOT-com. Our "snail" mailing address is still TARG, P.O. Box 3533, Escondido, CA 92033. use it for sending in orders or photos and anything else you want to share with the group. (If for some reason you are unable to contact us at the new address above, go ahead and use the old address. It is still: targ_net-AT-hotmail-DOT-com.
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